Situated Learning in Physical Education

David Kirk, Doune Macdonald
1998 Journal of teaching in physical education  
In this paper we argue that a version of situated learning theory, as one component of a broader constructivist theory of learning in physical education, can be integrated with other forms of social constructionist research to provide some new ways of thinking about a range of challenges currently facing physical educators, such as the alienation of many young people from physical education. The paper begins with a brief comment on some uses of the term "constructivism" in the physical activity
more » ... e physical activity pedagogy literature, then provides a more detailed outline of some of the key tenets of Lave and Wenger's (1991) theory of situated learning. We then go on to show how this theory of situated learning can be applied to thinking about the social construction of school physical education, using the example of sport education. We will argue in this paper that a constructivist approach to learning may I offer itself as a useful framework to inform and integrate pedagogical practices in physical education. In the last two decades, theories of learning in physical education have been dominated by the tenets of the mediating variable paradigm. A central notion within this paradigm is that teacher behaviors shape student behaviors. Student behaviors, in turn, are considered to be proximal indicators of learning. Locke (1979) identified instruction and engagement in active performance of learning tasks, or "time on task," as two behaviors that mediate between the teaching and learning of physical activities. As a consequence, research traditions have been built up around questions of how best to structure instructional tasks and maximize time on task using ALT:PE instrumentation. While the mediating variable paradigm has continued to dominate ways of thinking about learning in physical education, a number of areas of the school curriculum h from the application of constructivist approaches to learni Driver, Asoko, Leach, Mortimer, & Scott, 1994). In light of physical education, such as student alienation and a wide subject, it may be appropriate to begin to explore constructivism as a means complementing existing approaches to learning in physical education. Constructivist approaches emphasize that learning is the individual seeks out information in relation to the nmental conditions prevailin iven time. and te hin the context forr s task and in social and cultur s and is ir k and Doune Macdonald are w niversity of Queensland, Brisba ilities wit ) situated David Kir s at The Uj lg at any g ned by thc a1 context ith the Dey ~e , Austral the envir ifluenced ' Human X. lovement SITUATED LEARNING IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION 377 Constructivist approaches also stress that learning is developmental, both in the sense that there are identifiable phases in learning physical skills and that the ways people learn change over time due to growth, maturation, and experience. A further feature of constructivist approaches is that learning is multidimensional, in the sense that individuals typically learn more than one thing at a time and often implicitly, as in the case of the hidden cuniculum. Finally, constructivist approaches attempt to cater to differences in individuals' preferred learning styles. As Rovegno and Kirk (1995) have shown, physical educators have a long tradition of practices that share some of these features of constructivism through, for example, applications of the work of Rudolf Laban to movement education, and in the books of Bilborough and Jones (1963) and Mauldon and Redfem (1969) , among others. These authors stressed that learning is an active and creative process involving individuals in interaction with their physical environment and with other learners. While these approaches survive in the practices of some physical educators, it might reasonably be observed that they lack prominence and influence in the 1990s. Arecent Journal of Teaching in Physical Education monograph (Rink, 1996) has focused on approaches to learning in sports and games. One approach the monograph highlights is teaching games for understanding. This approach emphasizes game appreciation and tactical awareness as a basis for making game-play decisions and meeting skill development needs. In our view, the game sense approach may be consistent with constructivist approaches to learning, particularly due to the emphasis placed on active learning; the involvement of processes of perception, decision making, and understanding; and the developmental factors involving the modification of games to suit the learner. Our view is that constructivist influences, sometimes associated with studentcentered learning, have the potential to contribute to new theoretical perspectives on learning in the physical domain that can regenerate school physical education. Along with Locke (1992) and others, we suggest that such regeneration has now, as we approach a new millennium, become a matter of utmost priority for physical educators. Our sense of urgency here derives from widespread concerns about an alleged "crisis" in both primary (Kirk, 1996) and secondary (Siedentop, 1987) school physical education and, in particular, from responses to this crisis that call for "back-tobasics" forms of physical education. These back-to-basics forms conceptualize physical education as the development of noncognitive and narrowly sport-related "fundamental motor skills" and "physical fitness." We are worried, too, by widespread reports of physical education's apparent lack of meaningfulness in many children's lives, the allegedly inauthentic ways in which physical education practices relate to other social practices, and by reports of children's alienation from physical activity, from their bodies, and from themselves (Graham, 1995) . The apparent neglect of individuals' needs and interests with regard to learning is evident in much curriculum research that has tended to focus more broadly on the social organization of school knowledge. Where individuals have been considered within curriculum research, this has most often been in the context of understanding how people make sense of their experiences as school students or as teachers. Generally, our own individual and collaborative curriculum research programs have paid scant attention to students' learning, and we have increasingly come to regard this as a shortcoming that needs to be addressed. We now believe that curriculum development requires an underpinning of a theory of learning. Any meaningful or useful syllabus, course advice, or program of study that presents a selection of sequenced 378 KIRK AND MACDONALD content, teaching strategies, learning experiences, and assessment tasks will be embedded, often implicitly, in sets of assumptions about how people learn and what it is important that they learn. In our experience, many well-documented "failures" of curriculum development in physical education (see Locke, 1992; National Professional Development Project, 1996; Sparkes, 1990; Tinning & Kirk, 1991) may have owed as much to an underdeveloped concern for learning as to the multifarious other factors so often cited in the curriculum innovation and development literature. In light of these problems and concerns, our task in this paper is to sketch the beginnings of a theory of learning that can integrate and enrich current pedagogical practices and locate these practices socially and historically. Building on the work of Rovegno and Kirk (1995) and Macdonald, Kirk, Rovegno, Brooker, and Abemethy (1994), and drawing heavily on Lave and Wenger (1991), we will attempt to demonstrate that a version of situated learning theory could form a basis for integrating other forms of social constructionist research in the pedagogy of physical activity. We begin this paper with a brief comment on some uses of the term "constructivism" in the physical activity pedagogy literature. In a second section, we provide an outline of some of the key tenets of Lave and Wenger's (1991) version of situated learning theory. We then go on to show how this version of situated learning theory can be applied to thinking about the social construction of school physical education using the example of sport education.
doi:10.1123/jtpe.17.3.376 fatcat:dkikb6fpafghhfilxsd5e3dssq